Don’t learn gear changes, young drivers told as manual cars to be obsolete in years

Young drivers increasingly no longer need to learn how to change gear ahead of the coming revolution in electric cars, the President of the AA has said.

Edmund King said younger learners were already choosing “simpler” lessons in automatic cars because new petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned from the roads in 2030.

In the New Year, the largest driving school in the country will roll out electric car driving lessons nationally for the first time.

Rather than learning how and when to change gear, pupils at the AA-owned British School of Motoring will be taught to conserve their battery and drive with one pedal.

‘A car revolution is coming’ 

Mr King, who drives an electric car himself, told the Telegraph: “The world of cars is changing. A revolution is coming. I think younger people are beginning to realise that 2030 is really not very far away.

“There is increasingly an acknowledgement that you do not necessarily need to learn how to change gear. In the very near future, you will only need to drive an automatic, because all EVs are automatic.

“Obviously, it is much harder to learn on a stickshift, because the most difficult thing to gather is clutch control. That takes up the first five lessons.”

Drivers taking tests in automatic cars more than triples  

After a successful trial last year, and discussions with the Government, the BSM and AA Driving School are to give instructors the option of leasing an electric car as part of their franchise.

The proportion of learner drivers taking their test in an automatic rather than a manual car has already more than tripled since 2008, according to analysis of data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

How driving lessons might change

In 2008, only 3.8 per cent of tests were taken in an automatic vehicle, but by last year that had grown to 13.8 per cent.

Edmund King said the increase was down to learners preparing for an EV future.

He said: “The increase in automatic tests probably isn’t due to a massive increase in EVs yet but the presumption that in the future everyone will drive EVs so why not take an easier test now to prepare for the future.

“There is still a reluctance among young people to actually buy an EV because they are quite pricey and the insurance costs a lot too.”

Despite gears being considered one of the most challenging elements for new drivers, the pass rate in an automatic is lower than the average, at 39.5 per cent in 2019, compared to 45.9 per cent.

Meanwhile, driving tests could be changed to adjust to electric cars with lessons on choosing an appropriate gear replaced by how to get the most from your battery.

Drivers who take their test in an automatic car could also be allowed to use it for manual systems, to ensure they can still drive older and classic cars.

DVSA’s Deputy Chief Driving Examiner Gordon Witherspoon, said: “We constantly review tests for all vehicle types to take account of changes in technology, driving habits, regulations and highway infrastructure – as well as to respond to accident trends.

“We have already started work to look at the impact of electric vehicles on driver and rider education and assessment and to plan for any changes that this shift in vehicle type and use will need.”

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